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Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services Unleashed Paperback – December 24, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 888 pages
  • Publisher: Sams Publishing; 1 edition (December 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0672330016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0672330018
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 1.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #411,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Irina Gorbach is a senior development lead at Microsoft. She joined the Analysis Services team soon after its creation over 11 years ago. During her work at Microsoft, Irina has designed and developed many features of the Analysis Services product, and was responsible for client subsystem: OLEDB and ADOMD.Net. Irina was in the original group of architects that designed XML for Analysis specification; she worked on the architecture and design of calculation algorithms and currently is working on scalability of Analysis Services.


Alexander Berger was one of the first developers to work on OLAP systems at Panorama, prior to their purchase by Microsoft. After the acquisition, Alexander led the development of Microsoft OLAP Server through all of its major releases prior to SSAS 2008. Currently, Alexander leads the Business Intelligence department for Microsoft adCenter. He is one of the architects of OLEDB for the OLAP standard and MDX language, and holds more than 30 patents in the area of multidimensional databases.


Edward Melomed is one of the original members of the Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services team. He arrived in Redmond as part of Microsoft’s acquisition of Panorama Software Systems, Inc., which led to the technology that gave rise to Analysis Services 2008. He works as a program manager at Microsoft and plays a major role in the infrastructure design for the Analysis Services engine.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.



Analysis Services began as the project of a small Israeli firm named Panorama, which had responded to a request from a British publishing company to develop an application that would analyze the data stored in its relational database. By the end of 1994, Panorama developers began work on a more general application that would make it possible for business managers to analyze data with relative ease.

With its first release in 1995, Panorama deployed the application to several dozen customers. As the next release moved the application more deeply into the Israeli market, the Panorama team began to develop a new client/server analytical application. The server would process the data and store it in a proprietary format, and the client would also offer users an easy-to-use, rich graphical interface.

By 1996, the application had come to the attention of Microsoft, which acquired the technology by the end of that same year. In early 1997, a small Panorama team comprised of Alexander Berger, Amir and Ariel Netz, Edward Melomed, and Mosha Pasumansky moved from Tel Aviv to Redmond to start work on the first version of Microsoft OLAP Server. After the move to the United States, the team added new developers Irina Gorbach and Py Bateman.

To make the application attractive to enterprise customers, the team took on the challenge of formalizing and standardizing data exchange protocols, and they eliminated the client side of the application in favor of supporting a variety of third-party client applications. In early 1997, a small group including Alexander Berger retreated to a Puget Sound island to brainstorm the foundation of what would become SQL Server Analysis Services.

That retreat produced a plan for developing a standard protocol for client applications to access OLAP data: OLEDB for OLAP. More important, and more challenging, was the plan for developing a new query language that could access multidimensional data stored in the OLAP server—MDX (Multidimensional Expressions). MDX is a text language similar to SQL. MDX makes it possible to work with a multidimensional dataset returned from a multidimensional cube. From its inception, MDX has continued to change and improve, and now it is the de facto standard for the industry.

The original release plan was to include the OLAP server in the 1997 release of SQL Server 6.5. However, instead of rushing to market, Microsoft decided to give the development team more time to implement MDX and a new OLEDB for OLAP provider. Microsoft’s first version of a multidimensional database was released in 1998 as part of SQL Server 7.0. That version was integrated with Microsoft Excel PivotTables, the first client for the new server.

Under the slogan, “multidimensionality for the masses,” this new multidimensional database from Microsoft opened the market for multidimensional applications to companies of all sizes. The new language and interface were greeted favorably. The simplicity (and, one could say, elegance) of the design made it possible for users to rapidly become proficient with the new product, including users who weren’t database experts. Technology that used to be available only to large corporations was now accessible to medium-sized and small businesses. As a result, the market for new applications that use multidimensional analysis has expanded and flourished in an environment rich with developers who write those applications.

But, of course, we were not satisfied to rest on our laurels. We took on a new goal—turn Analysis Services into a new platform for data warehousing. To achieve this, we introduced new types of dimensions, increased the volume of data the server can process, and extended the calculation model to be more robust and flexible. Even though no additional personnel joined the team for this effort, by the end of 1999 we brought the new and improved Analysis Services 2000 to market.

For the next five years, more and more companies adopted Analysis Services until it became a leader in the multidimensional database market, garnering a 27% market share. Now, multidimensional databases running on OLAP servers are integral to the IT infrastructures of companies of all sizes. In response to this wide adoption of multidimensional database technology, Microsoft has increased the size of the team devoted to OLAP technology in order to continue to develop the platform to meet the requirements of enterprise customers.

For the 2005 release of SQL Server Analysis Services we started from ground up, rewriting the original (and now aging) code base. We built enterprise infrastructure into the core of the server.

SQL Server 2008 release continues to improve architecture and functionality of Analysis Services. While improving the performance of query execution, it also introduces query language extensions and new management capabilities.

Who Is This Book’s Intended Audience?

In this book, we bring you the tools you need to fully exploit Analysis Services and explain the architecture of the system. You’ll find all of the coverage of our previous book (just in case you were wondering if you needed to go back and read that one first), including the basic architecture established in Analysis Services 2005 as well as all the improvements introduced in Analysis Services 2008. Analysis Services Unleashed gives you a full understanding of multidimensional analysis and the MDX query language. It also exposes all the aspects of designing multidimensional applications and management of the system.

How This Book Is Organized

The book is divided into the following nine parts:

Parts I and II are devoted to a formalized description of the multidimensional model implemented in the new version of the OLAP server. We give you the vocabulary and concepts you’ll need to work with this model.

In Part III, we present a detailed discussion of MDX and explanation of the way we use it to query multidimensional data. You’ll need a practical grasp of the data model and MDX to take advantage of all the functionality of Analysis Services.

We devote the middle section of the book in Parts IV–VII to the practical aspects of loading and storing data in Analysis Services, as well as methods of optimizing data preparation and data access. In addition, we examine server architecture.

In the last section of the book, Parts VIII–IX, we discuss data access, the architecture of client components, and data protection. In addition, we examine the practical aspects of administering the server and monitoring its activities.

We wish you great success in your work with Analysis Services 2008, and we hope that our humbly offered book is of service to you.

Conventions Used in This Book

Commands, scripts, and anything related to code are presented in a special monospace computer typeface. Bold indicates key terms being defined, and italic is used to indicate variables or for emphasis. Great care has been taken to be consistent in letter case, naming, and structure, with the goal of making command and script examples more readable. In addition, you might find instances in which commands or scripts haven’t been fully optimized. This lack of optimization is for your benefit, as it makes those code samples more intelligible and follows the practice of writing code for others to read.

Other standards used throughout this book are as follows:

CAUTION - Cautions alert you to actions that should be avoided.

NOTE - Notes give you additional background information about a topic being discussed.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

The index also doesn't seem very accurate.
If you don't know SSAS and want to learn it, look elsewhere first and return to this book later.
Craig Utley
It is the best book on Analysis Services internals on the market.
Boyan Penev

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Craig Utley on February 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
First, this book is not a tutorial. If you don't know SSAS and want to learn it, look elsewhere first and return to this book later.

What this book provides is an in-depth view of how Analysis Services really works. For those of us who spend most of our time working with Analysis Services, this book is invaluable for understanding how the engine behaves and why. You'll find details on processing, aggregations, attribute relationships, and virtually every other aspect of SSAS. The level of detail is exactly what you would expect from members of the SSAS team at Microsoft, which is to say it is very detailed and technical in nature.

There are five chapters on MDX that explain the subtleties of the various functions and how they perform. There are also chapters that delve into performance tuning, security, and administrative tasks. I highly recommend this book to anyone already familiar with SSAS because it contains valuable information not found anywhere else.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Daniel T. Clark on March 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have thousands of hours of experience with SSAS 2000 and 2005. I think that SSAS is one of the best (if unappreciated) Microsoft products.

I bought this book for one reason - it was the first one available. If you need one now, then get it. But be warned that it's not particularly good.

The key problem is that the authors are fascinated with XML. They use raw XML to explain a wide variety of concepts and tasks. For the authors and publishers, it has the benefit of wasting a lot of space. This fattens the book and makes it look like you are getting more for your money.

Unfortunately for the readers, the book is difficult to read and completely misses the point of the SSAS interface. XML is the underlying metadata structure of SSAS. That is the last place you should look to understand cube and dimensional structure, or for modifying how the cube works.

For a professional programmer (me), time is money and productivity is everything. First you should should use the graphical and tabular representation of metadata to manipulate the cubes and dimension. THEN, you write MDX functions when necessary. If all else fails, mess with the XML.

If you can wait a few weeks, there are two new books coming out for AS 2008. I believe either would a much better alternative to this book.

Don't waste your money buying this book like I did.


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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By JNL on February 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
If this is the best SSAS book for the hardcore technologist, then I shudder to think what the worst one is.

I bought this book having no knowledge of the SSAS product or MDX. However my preference is for a theory-heavy book rather than a step-by-step introductory tutorial, so I would rather go straight for the jugular with the expert level book. To their credit the authors being deeply involved in the development of SSAS seem to know the product quite well, but their ability to explain concepts effectively and give you the big picture, enabling you to best construct an OLAP system with their product, is a bit lacking.

First, I'm puzzled how a book can go to mass production without someone at least running the text through the grammar checker--there are numerous grammatical errors throughout this book. The index also doesn't seem very accurate. I also found myself questioning the correctness of a couple code samples. These are but the first signs that the book was hastily written & published in an effort to be the first book to market on the 2008 version.

My second problem is with the ability of the authors to explain concepts of a technology that is foreign to people coming from the RDBMS mindset. MDX is an odd language, but many of their explanations & code samples often make the language even more confusing than is probably necessary. Let's take an example: in the cube-based mdx script chapter, they introduce the concept of static vs. named sets. They essentially explain it as such: "dynamic named sets are different than static named sets. Without explaining what a dynamic named set is, we'll just give you a code sample showing you the difference and hope you figure it out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. Lynch on March 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book will not teach you what you need to do to make SSAS work for you. It will make you a PhD in what SSAS does under the hood. The author clearly hasn't used this tool in the real world, even though he is clearly smart enough to have built it. I mean, who really cares about the bit structure of how SSAS stores strings? He also spends a LOT of space showing you the DDL of the data structures you build in SSAS in XML format. Seriously? Wish I hadn't bought this book. It's totally worthless for those of us who have jobs and need to get some real work done.

To coin an analogy, if you were looking for a book on auto racing, this book won't teach you the first thing about winning races. But it'll teach you everything you ever wanted to know about the chemical make up of the metals that were used to cast your engine block. Hope this helps.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Animation Fan on March 2, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Don't get this book for any sort of introduction to Analysis Services, though it attempts to have sufficient breadth to have something for everyone. This book would be best for someone who has already worked extensively with Analysis Services for several years and wants or needs to take it to the next level, in terms of cube size and performance (both processing and querying), where you really need to understand what is going on in the engine under the covers.

Something that is rarely appreciated is just how open Microsoft has always been with respect to this product in allowing such detailed information on its inner workings to be made publicly available. The chapters on internals are the most valuable compared to other information sources that are out there.

It is true as another reviewer complained that there exist an unnecessary number of grammatical, syntax and spelling errors (the only reason I don't give 5 stars), but they are and I hate to say it, minor irritants compared to the valuable information presented. The other negative reviews I just don't grock at all. If I have any complaint it is that many of the internals details are presented so matter-of-factly that they can slide right by you without your realizing their significance or implications. They also could have included more on how the workings that are revealed relate to the many server parameters you can adjust and the many performance monitor counters you can utilize in SQL Server Profiler and perfmon to gain deep insight into what is going on underneath.

If you aren't already conversant with Profiler, get a good book on it too, like Mastering SQL Server Profiler by Brad McGehee - it's focused on SQL Server counters but it all applies to AS also.
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